At least three Cayman Islands government backbench MLAs said Friday that they would oppose a fiscal framework bill brought to the Legislative Assembly, leading to some concern the territorial government might reject the United Kingdom-ordered financial management plan.
However, the particular amendments to the country’s Public Management and Finance Law being debated Friday in the assembly were yanked out from underneath lawmakers and new version – the third one presented last week – was given to members of the house at the end of the work day.
It is assumed the latest revised version of the amended bill that seeks to put the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility agreement into law will replace the one that was debated last week, although Premier McKeeva Bush had not made any public statements to that effect at press time.
Though the debate Friday afternoon was on the now-scuttled second version of the amendment bill, some comments from government backbenchers, like George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, raised questions about whether legislators might approve any plan that implements the fiscal framework.
Mr. Solomon said he thought some fellow legislators had still not realised “the gravity of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility” that Premier Bush signed in November 2011.
“[The UK] can now dictate to us, pretty much, what we can spend and how we can spent it,” Mr. Solomon said. “I have a problem… when jolly old England can send legislation here and say ‘forget about 21 days notice, forget about amendments… I want what I want’. I have a problem with that because it’s undemocratic; England wouldn’t do it in their own country.”
“I wonder at times why would a mother treat her child like this?” asked backbench Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour, referring to the territorial relationship between Cayman and the UK wherein England is sometimes referred to as the Mother Country.
West Bay MLA Cline Glidden Jr. was the other government backbencher to voice objections to the amendment bill Friday. “It is obvious now… that the government is not united in a position on this bill,” said George Town MLA Kurt Tibbetts, a member of the opposition party.
Opposition party members pointed out that England had first required the fiscal framework agreement, also signed by then-UK Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham in November 2011, to be enacted into law by July 2012. It was not and government missed another deadline to place the measures into law by September.
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman MLA Moses Kirkconnell, an opposition party member, asked colleagues to put their emotions aside and accept the document, which requires certain processes to be undertaken when it comes to public project bids, government borrowing and general financial management. The concern, among other things, is that the fiscal framework agreement won’t allow government the flexibility to get public projects under way to assist the local economy because it does not allow Cayman to borrow money until June 2016 and places tight monitoring restrictions on public-private partnership agreements.
Mr. Solomon blasted the opposition party, accusing its members of running up huge debts as the government between 2005 and 2009 and placing Cayman in the position where it could not adhere to certain requirements in the Public Management and Finance Law.
“They have given the Foreign and Commonwealth Office what they always wanted; greater control over the finances of this country,” he said. “Now all of a sudden they are financial geniuses.”
Mr. Tibbetts, who was the leader of the last government, said Friday that if lawmakers could put political differences aside, they might see their way clear to realising the UK-drafted fiscal framework was an opportunity for the Cayman Islands, rather than its death sentence.
“While it means the reins are tight, we are certainly not finding ourselves in totally untenable circumstances,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “This entire country; the elected arm of government, the official arm of government, the public service, the core government and entire public sector has not come to grips with the fact that life is not how it used to be and we have to learn to live differently.
“This… should really be looked upon as the one time that we can’t be blamed… but we can fix it, even if we are forced to do so.”